“Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don’t like to do.” – Albert Gray.
Wow, think about that quote. I ran across this on an internet search. I was actually looking for the Patton quote about the guy who finishes second just being the first loser (from the movie Patton), but couldn’t find anywhere where that was actually attributed to him other than in the opening monologue of the movie. So this Albert Gray quote will have to do for the purposes of this article.
Another favorite quote of mine having to do with competition is from a High School football coach named George Thole. George was a very successful coach at Stillwater high school through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. A few years back Minnesota went from a two class state basketball tournament to a 4 or 5 class basketball tournament. George was asked, based on his experience with football doing the same thing several years earlier, what he thought about this innovation. George answered to this effect ¼ “how about we send out a championship trophy to every school in the state and at the end of the year, those that don’t feel they deserve it can send theirs back.”
Recently a young man named Cash Eggleston set the Minnesota state Basketball record for most points scored by an individual by scoring 90 points in a single game. Rather than singing the praises of a young man who achieved breaking a record that has stood since 1958 (the old record was 70), everyone is talking about the “sportsmanship” of “running up a score”.
I think this is where we are going with model contests. Chicago style judging and category splits down to pilot’s first names have started to dilute winning awards at contests simply to make guys feel better about competing.
Let me start by saying, contests aren’t for everyone, in fact I cut back on my entries a while back, mainly because I didn’t enjoy it as much as when I started. Occasionally I’ll throw a model in to help support the entry or to partake in some special club event, or with our group entry on J-aircraft, but I found long ago that my disposition isn’t one that works well with contests.
However, being at contests without much to do gives me a great deal of time to wander around and listen to what is being said. I also have had the opportunity to judge (which I enjoy doing a great deal since it is a real learning experience) at several of the contests that I have attended.
The most common complaints that I hear are about either a) the awards or b) the judging.
The awards are too big (won’t fit in my display case), too small (you can’t see it in the display case), too cheap (I paid $19 entry fee and got this crappy trophy), too expensive (they could decrease their fees if they went to a simpler trophy), too plastic (couldn’t they afford something with metal on it) or too weird (what where they thinking).
Then comes the judging complaints. The judges have no idea what they were doing, anything about the subject, anything about modeling, anything about anything! People can’t believe that the kit they spent forty hours detailing the cockpit on didn’t win over something that was out of the box!! What they fail to mention is that they didn’t fill in a seam line on the spine of the kit or on the wing, which dropped them from first, to fourth.
To try to appease the non-appeasable people we have found some new ways of judging. We have changed the rules to accommodate and give out more awards for less deserving items. No longer do judges withhold placements, which they did ten years ago, we now give awards out to one-third of the contestants, whether they deserve them or not.
This one-third rule is called Chicago style judging. A handful of judges are given scorecards and told to put a checkmark by the 10 best models (or whatever about one-third is). They are not asked to rate them, nor are they asked to comment on them, just pick the ten best. These numbers are compiled and some mathematical break point is looked at and a number of firsts, a number of seconds and a number of thirds are broken out. So in essence you can have the tenth best model on the table and end up third. Great system, isn’t it?
In the category split method, categories are split down to the point where there are 8-10 models in each category. Now the categories are pretty much made up on the spot. For instance 1/48 th scale allied aircraft with the name thunderbolt flown by a guy named Ted would be a valid category, well maybe. The splits try to fit stuff in. 109s would be a common split or German aircraft may be another. Basically contests try to break things out enough so that they can give out a maximum number of awards.
So what’s wrong with this? After all, the more awards given out, the more happy people leaving the contest, right? Well, kind of.
Folks may be happy, but did they really win anything? Sure a few guys did really deserve what they got, but a bunch of guys really didn’t. Having judged quite a few of these things, the first three or four out of ten are pretty easy, after that you are picking things that have at least some significant flaws in them just to fill out the scorecard.
Winning an award at a contest should be reserved for the best of the best, not for some mythical number or category that was chosen out of the blue. For the rest of the people all I can say is tough hop. You lost.
Now before you start calling me or e-mailing me, let me finish.
The reason you went to a contest in the first place is to see how you compare. How do your skills measure up with other modelers? How does your research or scratchbuilding ability measure up? How about your finishes, are they good enough to win?
Now those are all nice questions, but the big question is really “what do I have to do to win?” There are guys out there that simply can’t look at their stuff with a discerning eye and figure out what’s wrong (in the dog world we call this being kennel blind). There are others that simply choose to ignore the things that are wrong and blame the judges for screwing up. While that isn’t out of the question, it is less likely than there being something wrong with your model.
Simply put, getting third place for a model that isn’t worthy only encourages people’s bad habits. It doesn’t push them to get better.
Now back to the example of the kid that scored the 90 points. If you are on the other team and you don’t like it when someone scores 90 points on you, then YOU need to get better! It’s really not the kid’s fault that he scored 90, it’s yours.
If your model isn’t good enough to win at a contest, you need to get better. You need to look at what the winners are doing better than you and get better at it! Heck you can probably talk to the guys that won and they may even help you.
I go back to the quote that started this article “Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don’t like to do.”
Guys that win at contests don’t take shortcuts. They have a specific methodology and they follow it each and every time. They spend many hours creating their masterpieces and are not happy until every single piece is just right, even if it means building and rebuilding a piece or a part multiple times until it is perfect.
I will admit that over the last few years I’ve slipped into the losers habits. I’ve settled for good enough on many occasions, just to finish a project and get it off my shelf of doom. I’ve pushed through something just to have it ready in time for some event or contest and not really done the proper job on it and in looking back at the pieces, I can see where I’ve screwed up and it probably cost me some placements or at the very least better placements.
So my message for this month is to the contest modelers. Quit your complaining about the judging and get better at modeling! Now shut up and build!